Community

Celebrate Central: CFD Search & Rescue

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By Mia Freneaux

People who do not live in Central, send their children to our schools, or shop with our merchants cannot of course be expected to know anything about our town.  It is surprising, though, how many of Central’s own residents are unaware of some of the best things we have going.  This is the inaugural article in a series entitled “Celebrate Central”, focusing on all the things that make this town great.

The tragic drowning on the Amite River a few weeks ago brought the Search and Rescue Unit of the Central Fire Department into the spotlight.  The Search and Rescue unit is manned by 6 certified divers and other trained personnel who run support.  Central Fire Department has 2 motor boats, a 12 foot and a 14 foot, a truck to carry diving gear and communication equipment, and an ATV to tow the boat trailers to the rescue site.  The divers are certified by Underwater Adventures, and then must undergo additional training in Swift Water Rescue and Open Water Diving Rescue.  In addition to these specialized classes, all the divers are fully trained firefighters. Their support team, also fully trained firefighters, handle communications between the divers and the shore, boat operations, and assist in inter-departmental coordination (called “Mutual Aid”).  For example, in the recovery operation in the tragedy on the Amite, Central Fire Department worked along with the Livingston Parish Fire Department, and the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office provided a helicopter.  The Livingston Parish SO was the department in charge since the accident occurred on that side of the river.  Typically, the Fire Department will handle the rescue operations, while the Sheriff’s Department handles crowd control and any criminal side of the incident.

Central’s Search and Rescue has a long history of assisting other agencies.  Approximately 10 years ago, Central was one of the only departments in a very large area to have trained divers, and was called on to assist in rescues as far away as False River and Old River.  The Wildlife and Fisheries Department has called upon them to assist in water rescue many times.  They are trained to handle any type of water emergency whether it involves swimming, boating, tubing or fishing.  Just recently a car went into a pond on Hooper Road and divers had to go underwater to hook up the wrecker chains to pull the vehicle out.  This past Monday night at 1:00 a.m., Central Fire Department was called out to locate a family that had been tubing on the river and had failed to report in. The Search and Rescue team was mobilized to locate them on the Amite.  Thankfully, all were found safe and sound on a shoal near Florida Boulevard.  Due to the dangerous nature of the Comite and Amite Rivers, Search and Rescue must face submerged logs, deep channels, strong undertows and currents, not to mention the possibility of reptile attacks.  Water moccasins and alligators, though rare, can still be found along our rivers. 

For an operating annual budget of $2,634,000 provided strictly by taxes and a $32.00 per structure service fee, the City of Central is protected by 5 staffed fire stations.  This means that there is someone at the fire station on call 24 hours a day year round.  The stations are located on Sullivan Road, Monticello Blvd, Donnybrook Dr, East Beaver Dr, and Lovett Rd.  This revenue must cover expenses associated with station upkeep, equipment upkeep and purchasing, and salaries.  All the stations and their personnel must meet rigorous standards yearly to keep insurance rates down.  Personnel must participate in monthly classes that train them in new procedures or refresh past training.  All equipment must be kept in tip top condition and upgraded continually.  Central Fire Department was fortunate to receive a grant recently that enabled them to replace 20 and 30 year old rescue equipment.  It is to be noted that if Central Fire Department failed in this charge, our tax rates would go up to cover higher insurance costs.  It is not just by their guardianship that they serve us!  It is important to consider the amount of equipment, training, and personnel that go into making our fire department function as wonderfully as it does, especially when a tax proposal supporting the fire department is up for voter approval.   Central Fire Department is one of the best values Central can boast.  For more information on Central Fire Department, including safety tips and recall information, please go to www.centralfd.org.  Many thanks to Captain Derek Glover and Fire Chief Bill Porche for their assistance with this article, and to Captain Ken Dunham for giving me the tour of the fire station.   Future articles will focus on the service provided by firefighting personnel and Emergency Medical Services.  

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